All those associated with the United States Merchant Marine Academy are conscious of the established code of honor, “[I]A Midshipman will not lie[/I][I],[/I][I] cheat[/I][I],[/I][I] or steal[/I].” This code of morality is at the foundation of this Academy and every Midshipman pledges to uphold this honor code upon their indoctrination into the Academy. Having taken a vow to defend this code and uphold its values, any Midshipman caught violating this code should be subject to disciplinary action and possible disenrollment. However, this is no longer the case.
The past few years at the Merchant Marine Academy have been tumultuous indeed. Having gone through numerous superintendents and commandants, the Academy is lacking effective leadership and direction. More often than not in my time here, the Academy has been under the guidance of its Academic Dean and Interim Superintendent, Dr. Shashi Kumar. Dr. Kumar is a respectable man, however the consistency and transparency that should be present in the Academy’s leadership simply does not exist. The current administration is gun shy about pulling the trigger and taking action in matters that require strong leadership and open communication. This has led to general disillusionment and malaise amongst the Midshipman of this Academy, who arrive plebe year with high hopes only to have them crushed by the toxic bureaucracy and rampant hypocrisy present in the system.
The inaction of the Administration and the refusal to consistently enforce the Academy’s rules and regulations, has trickled down the ranks to the Midshipmen and created a culture of moral relativism within the regiment where students no longer recognize the difference between right and wrong. The administration, by not providing a firm hand and enforcing the Academy’s regulations and honor code, has inadvertently created an epidemic within the regiment of disregard for the regulations and the honor code. The regiment is rampant with cheating, stealing, and even drug use; a direct result of the inadequacy of the administration in enforcing Academy standards.
The defectiveness of the Academy’s leadership can be seen most distinctly in its honor system. Over the past few years, the administration has failed enormously in enforcing the Academy’s honor code and Midshipman who should have, according to our code, been disenrolled are allowed to stay at the Academy. One case consisted of three female midshipmen admittedly collaborating on a final exam. They received only restrictive punishment and come senior year each one was given an officer position. Last year, a female midshipman admittedly took pictures of a final exam. She was honor boarded, merely set back, and upon her return to the Academy was given an officer position in her respective company. This year, however, takes the cake with the inability of the administration to adhere to the Academy’s code. Three female Midshipman were found guilty with separation, eight to one, by a jury of their own peers. The extent of their crimes includes climbing through the ceiling into a professor’s office, stealing a test, and subsequently lying about having done so. As of Friday, February 25[SUP]th[/SUP], the honor case surrounding these three girls, who violated every ideal this Academy represents, has been dropped and they will be allowed to graduate and call themselves an alumni along with the rest of us. An action that would have resulted in arrest at any other institution, is not only excused by the administration, but encouraged through its inability to adhere to and enforce the honor code of the Academy.
Additionally, the double standard at this Academy needs to be addressed. In every one of the cases previously mentioned, the perpetrator was a female. Whereas every one of the previous Midshipmen received little to no punishment for their violations, male midshipmen in the same position are given punishment to the full extent of the honor code. One male midshipman plagiarized a portion of a paper, admitted guilt, and was setback without a second thought. Females are allowed to essentially violate any rule or regulation without swift or just punishment. There is no equality within the regimental system, and when females are allowed to get away with murder, the males at the Academy come to resent them. The difficulties of being a female at an Academy are clearly present, but special treatment by the administration only creates a more hostile environment. It is understood that the Academy must fulfill a diversity requirement, but how can it be expected to recruit more females or minorities when the Academy presents potential recruits with students who blatantly disregard its ideals?
The administration has clearly been inefficient in maintaining Academy standards. This is made even more obvious by the recent drug bust at the Academy. Several Midshipmen were found in possession of large quantities of drugs, and were acting as suppliers to the rest of the regiment. This is yet another example of administration’s failure to uphold standards. This type of behavior would not exist if students did not think they could get away with it, a direct result of the administration not taking action in disciplinary matters.
Clearly, the administration is not entirely at fault. The Midshipmen are the ones who pledge to uphold the honor code, and each and every one has a moral responsibility to follow the Academy’s rules and regulations. Our placement at Kings Point is a gift that has been granted to us. We are given the opportunity and the training to become leaders both in the Armed Services and the Maritime industry, all on the generosity of the tax payer. However, the administration’s laissez faire approach to guiding and leading the regiment is clearly responsible for the moral degradation that has bourgeoned in the regimental system. The administration has not been following the Academy’s mission of “[I]educating and graduating officers and leaders of honor and integrity[/I]”, but instead has been promoting its Midshipman to live in a way contrary to the Academy’s ideals.
Something needs to change at this Academy. It is nothing less than heartbreaking that a Midshipman or an Alumnus is embarrassed to call Kings Point their Alma Mater. No institution can function properly with an organization of people who do not abide by its codes, and when the administration does not abide by the same then change must come from the top.
Nothing can be accomplished through inaction, we’ve seen distinct proof of this in the dealings of the Academy’s administration. Therefore, the time for [B]action[/B] is now. Contact congressmen, flood the DOT with complaints, do whatever you can to send the message that the Midshipman and the Alumni will no longer stand for the depreciated state of the Academy. If we do not take action now, I fear that our Academy will not see another five years. Act now. “[I]Acta non Verba”.[/I]